I recently revisited a lapsed homework assignment from last Summer’s illustration course–a short graphic memoir about a small lesson I’ve carried with me from one of my early jobs in TV.
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A few weeks ago I signed up for an online course called Make A Comic Book. It’s sort of a cheaper, less personal version of the SVA course I took almost 4 years ago (jeez, I’m progressing glacially with this whole “pursuing my craft” thing). It’s been a little disappointing, because the the instructor has given no personal feedback, and in fact instructs very little, aside from 5-minute videos and a syllabus of online tutorials that are freely available. Everything is peer-reviewed, which helps, but I’d find feedback from a professional much more enlightening. And from what I can tell (based on the material I’ve been asked to peer-review), there’s only a handful of people taking this session, so I think they could afford to be more hands-on.
That said, I knew going into it that the most important aspect of the course would be shelling out money in order to motivate myself to finish something! So, here goes…something.
Believe it or not, cartoons have been on my mind this past week. I’ve got a pretty solid story for my graphic novel, and I’d love for you to harass me about finishing it sometime this decade. This pair of drawings was just a test for one element of the story: an entertainer during his carefree youth, and his disgruntled final years.
I’m showing you this pointlessly photoshopped pair of pages (composed of 2 screenshots from my iPad, naturally) to illustrate the beginning of my next project, which is sort of the writer’s block version of the fiscal cliff. I didn’t give myself any particular deadline, but a while back I decided that if I couldn’t think of anything original to do, I’d bust out another adaptation of one of my favorite O. Henry stories.
Although my previous graphic novel, for a class, was also based on O. Henry, this one will be a more faithful retelling, taking place in Greenwich Village at the turn of the 20th Century. It’s a short, simple story, so I think the real challenge will be in stretching my cartooning abilities to evoke the strong imagery in the original story.
At the top of a squatty, three-story brick Sue and Johnsy had their studio. “Johnsy” was familiar for Joanna. One was from Maine; the other from California. They had met at the table d’hôte of an Eighth Street “Delmonico’s,” and found their tastes in art, chicory salad and bishop sleeves so congenial that the joint studio resulted.
I think this is a challenge faced by screenwriters as well. O. Henry tells the backstory of these characters in a very economical paragraph; turning it into a “flashback” scene might take up a few pages in a comic book. Ideally, I’ll find my own efficient way of imparting who these characters are, what makes them tick. But if all else fails, “O.” can step in and provide some narration.
Tonight, I went through and highlighted the basic imagery, plot points and dialogue that I thought were essential to the story. Tomorrow I’ll begin scripting, and hopefully figuring out some of the layout.
I should just be finishing this, but I guess experimenting with comic inking isn’t the worst form of procrastination. A lot of comic book artists who still work with ink do their pages on 11″x17″ paper. Among the advantages: little imperfections disappear when shrunk down to print size, and the larger the scale, the easier it is to manipulate a brush or brush pen.
So anyway, working on a sheet of 8.5″x11″ paper made for a panel around 3″ wide, and even my tiniest brush pen seemed too thick unless I gave it a featherlight (and shaky) touch. So to see what it would be like to ink in the larger format, I printed this panel at about 5″ wide. Turns out that’s a great size for rendering lines similar to the digital ones I’d settled on, using my Zebra fine pen.
I definitely like the look of the gray copic marker over the uniform digital gray, but I still prefer the digital line, if only because the computer has helped me look more competent than I really am. It makes sense to leverage technology, but there’s definitely something more satisfying about putting pen to paper. It’s also more comfortable, because I’m not tied to a tiny graphics tablet on my desk. I think I have to make my next project analog; it’ll improve my skills even if I settle on digital.
The good news is, this exists. The bad news is, I didn’t get to finish the last page, or even start a cover. But not a big deal; I was planning to put more work into it anyway; the loopy-on-caffeine rush job was to have it as complete as possible for my final class. Once I get some feedback and a couple days rest, I’ll finish it up for good and get it out to my 3 fans!